Thorns to branches

Reading Time: 4 minutes

On today’s episode of “how it’s made”: Thorns!

The pointy defence system relied on by many plants has an interesting origin story. Thorns start out as branch-like structures that grow out of the main stem and then, all of a sudden, turn into sharp death spikes. Now, researchers have not only figured out how that happens, but also how it can be stopped. … Read more

Not to stimulate cats, they said

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This post is inspired by two great friends. One, VL, who makes it her job to alert me of any and all of the cat-science news and sent around a paper about Cat Mint aka Nepeta spp., and the evolution of the chemicals – nepetalactones – that make cats go crazy.

And another, FM, who read this part of that paper’s abstract:

Most likely, the adaptive function of nepetalactones in Nepeta is to protect against herbivorous insects, not to stimulate cats […]”

And responded jokingly that he preferred his science with a little less opinion.… Read more

Spitting in the eye of plant defences

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Unlike animals, plants can’t make a run for it when attacked by predators: they have to stand and fight. And fight they do, with a variety of defences designed to prevent themselves from becoming food. But of course, in the evolutionary tug-of-war of nature, the predators themselves have developed specialised weapons to surmount these blockades.

And for whitefly, the secret’s in the spit!… Read more